August 16th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

School's daily PE, fresh fruit set kids on a healthy path

Editor's note: Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores the signs, tests and lifestyle changes that could make cardiac problems a thing of the past on "The Last Heart Attack," Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

The school board said, "Make health a priority."

With that directive, Cheryl McIntire began the next phase of her career three years ago, as principal of Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois.

This summer, she flew to New York to receive the first Gold Award given to an elementary school by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which has been working with schools since 2006 to fight childhood obesity.

Certain things at Northeast Elementary really stand out. During class, the teachers lead students through a physical activity break, where they do yoga or some simple stretching. They have PE class every single day, and snack on fresh fruits like strawberries, grapes and blueberries.

The Alliance, founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, currently partners with about 12,000 of the nation’s 99,000 elementary and secondary schools to offer free guidance on improving school environments.

Of those 12,000 schools, only three have received the Gold Award.

“If we can measure that we have stopped the rise of young children who are obese and chronically overweight and that it’s going back down, and if we can see a reversal in the number of young people who developed type II diabetes,” former President Bill Clinton tells Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “then I think you will see that will have enormous ramifications through the health care system.”

In the halls of Northeast Elementary, a banner announces the school’s Gold Award status, but the real impact, say administrators, is felt well beyond the campus walls.

“One of the things on our parents' survey is how excited they were about the exposure that our children have had to fruits and vegetables that they have never tasted before,” says  McIntire, “and how much they’ve encouraged their parents when they’re grocery shopping to buy those things at home.”

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. ser

    Yay..first poster......that said..
    MMMMMMMMMMMMM taco day at school....

    August 16, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jimmy

    Obviously this is not news worthy to many people because there are no comments. It's a shame too because these types of programs and education is what helps prevent major issues down the road but no one wants to implement them or take the time to. Too many people push problems and costs down the road and then when it's time to pay – guess what it costs us 10 times or more than it would have if we would have addressed it sooner. This applies to anything in life. Push a problem down the road and it becomes a disaster later. It's a shame that something so simple can reap so many benefits but people are stuck in their ways.

    Hopefully more schools offer students better choices or parents send their kids better lunches if good ones are not available in school. There is no reason why a kids lunch should be stuffed with salt, oils, sugars and carry very little nutritional value. It's not cheap to eat healthy...but maybe if they understood the consequences – they might think differently.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charls

      Wonderful comment; so right.

      August 16, 2011 at 21:39 | Report abuse |
  3. Name*Mary

    My daughter attendsthis school. We love the wellness program, even the teachers are involved with the wellness, and it has even evolved into our home. Its beneficial to everyone

    August 16, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Bones

      And yet you're not spouting some insane theory about how a school giving your kid a strawberry is some Michelle Obama-designed Bolshevik Plot ™ to control the children's thoughts by not packing them full of the refined sugar and saturated fat they have a "right" to consume every day.

      Why...you've just given me actual *hope* that the world has NOT, in fact, been overrun by insane loumouths and hatemongers. I feel like plunking through "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" on a banjo now...

      August 16, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Can't forget we Swim Nights, Fit Night at the track, and Thursday's PTA Fun Night! This school is great.

      August 18, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
  4. mouse

    "It's not cheap to eat healthy"..........perhaps not but it's a lot cheaper than diabetes, heart desease, high blood pressure etal......so I spend more on groceries than I probably should since everything I buy is high fiber, whole wheat etc..........benefit? I only see my family doc once a year for my annual.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. mouse

    Moderation and a little time outdoors running around like we used to, parents make sure and keep an eye on your kids at all times, should just about do it!!

    August 16, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Salop88

    I'm just curious why PE was dropped in the first place. We had it in school and probably needed it less that today's kids because we actually played outside every day after school. And soda machines & junk food have no place in the schools, either; feed them a proper balanced hot lunch. BTW, what did they replace PE time with, anyway? Apparently not education, because test scores seem to be dropping.

    August 16, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tam

      They've replaced PE with extra reading and math time in our schools.

      August 16, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse |
    • Allie

      Our school is in rural upper East TN. We have not had fryers in our schools for 7 years here. We buy local produce to serve the kids and all foods are baked (though some are not 'healthy').
      Yes, we still see obesity, but we also see improvement. We do a bulk birthday celebration with frozen yogurt and the teachers take the kids on walks around the school yard while they eat a snack midday. We have a weekly formalized PE, but each child has 90 minutes of physical activity per day.
      If TN can get it done, anyone can.

      August 16, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
    • KYJelly

      PE was forced to be dropped by the Liberal Politically Correct crowd because some kids aren't as good as others in sports and the kids not as good suffered from lower self esteem and replaced with "cutural tolerance" classes.

      August 16, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
  7. KYJelly

    PE was forced to be dropped by the Liberal Politically Correct crowd because some kids aren't as good as others in sports and the kids not as good suffered from lower self esteem and replaced with "cutural tolerance" classes.

    They also tried and succeded in several schools at banning "tag" and other type games at recess for the same reason.

    Of course as usual liberals nerver think of the consequences of there actions they want everyone to feel good about themselves even if it means a lack of excersise that makes kids fat, not to mention that kids need to blow off steam during the day.

    August 16, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LivingInVA

      No, actually, they banned it because parents were suing when their kids got hurt. Instead of saying "kids get hurt" it became "who can we blame".

      August 16, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
    • sqeptiq

      Stop the PC rightwing garbage. It has more to do with school administrators scared to death of the dreaded "failing school" designation from No Child Left Behind and budget cuts that have caused staff reductions. Schools get fewer complaints about PE going away that they do Math or English going away. And nobody demands a high stress test of physical competency.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • charls

      My wife used to work at a school. Budget cuts made by our GOP governor is forcing all sort of cut in school: no art, no music, no PE but plenty of teacher layoffs. Pure and simple, people elect politicians who promise not to raise taxes and they are doing it by cutting money to schools. Wake up American, your sons and daughter; your grandchildren are paying a price for your insistence on no more taxes. You get what you pay for or what you do not pay for. It comes down to money.

      August 16, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
  8. MikeGCNY

    Ok. Good idea. But what about the opposite end? I am genetically gifted when it comes to waistline. I have passed those genes to my little girl, who at age 8.5 is 4'4" tall and 52 lbs. High percentile in Height, low percentile in weight. Add in the daily dose of amphetemines (ADHD therapy, Focalin, 10 mg once daily), and you get a kid who grows an inch in 10 months and loses a pound. Where's the public stories about the variance in causes of obesity and the underweight?

    BTW, she probably eats 3000 calories a day, starting off the day with a waffle or two, a tall glass of whole chocolate milk with 100 extra calories added in the form of a protien powder, a multivitamin with flouride(tap water here is not flourinated), and her ADHD meds. She also prefers reading and art to running around outside.

    August 16, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ohgeez

      Oh for god sakes...it's still nice to get outside in the sunshine...make friends, learn to work as a team, learn strategy in games or just learn a new game in general...if she's taking ADHD meds, she could probably stand to run around...she isn't going to burn off 1000 calories by running around and playing for 45 mins...That's nice that she prefers art and reading to running around outside...but I would prefer to do a lot of other things besides certain things that aren't enjoyable...Children are growing up more and more babied and most of them have to be hand held in practically every freaking thing they do...Besides a few select schools, I think American education is a jenga tower just waiting to fall...just keep pulling out important, fundamental building blocks and it all goes to hell...I didn't like P.E everyday, but some days it was a lot of fun and it was a nice reward after three days of running or stretching lessons, we got to play a fun game...the world outside is disappearing anyway, might as well make them enjoy it while it lasts.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse |
    • Kurt Submerged

      Why the hell do you give an 8.5 year old with a non-fully-developed personality ADHD meds? You are a terrible parent – deal with your kid's activity level without giving them drugs that even adults shouldn't be taking. These medicines are a revenue earner, not real syndrome treatment.

      August 17, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
  9. larry

    If a kid has a Playstation, cable TV, soda pop and a bag of potato chips why would he want to go outside. There is a ton of marketing driven by gigantic profits to push all this junk on kids and none of them mention a word about going outside.

    August 17, 2011 at 04:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JasmineS

    Obesity has been an issue for years, however modern conveniences made it better for us to buy larger cars to get one block down to the local store, eat larger portions (or buy one get one free specials) for about the same prices as a smaller portion, and have plenty of burger and chicken places around low income neighborhoods that may supply jobs, but also dangerous foods which damage our health. Why don't Whole Foods and other well known health store chains build a store near the urban areas; they tout being healthy, but I suppose it's for the more affluent people, hmm?

    Final comment – before Michelle settled on obesity to help America's children (after Sasha was declared this by her doctor?!), Clinton, Rachel Ray and many others were tackling the problem of obesity; they just didn't have the luxury
    of being on camera or of "media interest" 24/7 as the Obamas are...

    August 18, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Adam

    My Daughter and Step-Son attend this school. Not only is Health and Wellness emphasized, but the children wear Uniforms, go to school year-round, and there is mandatory parental involvement that all of us parents agree to. Danville is most certainly in an economic rut, you can watch "Same Name" the recent episode with Reggie Bush to get an idea, but even in the darkest holes you can always find light, and Dang It... Northeast is a FLOODLIGHT! Go Northeast, and Go Mrs. McIntire!!!! Just don't let her catch you without a Belt or your shirt not tucked in. 🙂

    August 18, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ananda

    my school had wellness!

    August 26, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 18, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.